UN labour agency hit by industrial action

10th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

The International Labour Organisation, the UN's prime advocate of decent working conditions and social protection, was hit by industrial action on Wednesday by its own disgruntled staff.

About 500 to 600 employees took part in a general meeting after talks with management broke down over the growing "inappropriate use of precarious (short-term) contracts" and abuse of recruitment procedures, staff union Chairperson Christopher Land-Kazlauskas told AFP.

"The ILO must practice what it preaches to the world," the union said in a statement calling for "global action."

"While we, the staff at the ILO research, write and travel the world over promoting a dialogue-driven response to the global financial crisis, here at home our own rights are being eroded," it added.

Staff demonstrated outside a scheduled meeting of the Geneva-based ILO's governing council, forcing its postponement and set a November 16 deadline for a response to their grievances.

"If we don't have a response, we'll take it to the next stage" including "possible strike action," Land-Kazlauskas said.

Union representatives said other ILO offices around the world had also mobilised amid growing discontent with the secretariat's management.

The ILO, a tripartite UN agency which groups governments, employers and workers representatives, openly advocates social dialogue, minimum labour standards and a "decent work agenda."

It employs around 2,800 people.

In a statement, the ILO secretariat said it was the only organisation in the UN system where management and staff had concluded an agreement on the right to collective bargaining, and held regular meetings.

"Nevertheless there is one area in which the parties differ, the procedures concerning recruitment and selection," it acknowledged, pointing to the failure so far of attempts to renegotiate a two year deal struck in 2000.

It said it was ready to continue negotiations for one more year.

Land-Kazlauskas said the staff union had held strike action seven times before, most recently in 1991 over pension rules.

© 2010 AFP

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